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Wednesday 27 November 2013

A Musical (ish) Interlude

My remarkable progress with Billy 3 could be about to hit a speed bump. Perhaps more honestly, it has hit a speed bump. It's not my fault. Well, okay it is, but I'm going to blame as many others as possible. You see, it's really my desk's fault. When I bought my desk I had to say farewell to my beloved Technics organ. There wasn't room for both and in a fit of uncustomary maturity I announced I needed a desk more.

I might have been wrong. I can't tell you how much I've missed that organ. True, it was old, the contacts on the bass pedals had to be periodically scraped clean with wire wool, and it had none of the modern niceties like touch sensitivity and infinite control over reverb and resonance, but it was a good friend. Added to which, its full rich sound covered a multitude of errors and musical ineptitude on my part. The old chap was a real trouper. So yes, it's very definitely the desk's fault. Or possibly the builder who made a house too small for a person to have both an organ and a desk. What was he thinking?

Anyway, back to the speed bump. My fingers have been itching lately. With the coming festive season I should be practising carols and Christmassy tunes, but the desk is woefully lacking in voice, bass, and rhythm, though it has to be said it has excellent timbre. (I do apologise, no more, I promise.) Anyway, the long and short of it is, I went out yesterday and bought myself an early Christmas present in the form of a Yamaha keyboard.

Now, I think one or two people may have been expecting an instant return to normal musical service. There was, I suspect, a degree of disappointment at my baffled stabbing of buttons and muttering over the manual, but it's rather more complicated than my old pal. I'll get there, but there's going to be a short intermission while I figure out how to turn the new beastie on. Working out voices may take another week or so. Figuring out how to control reverb, resonance, chorus, attack etc. may take a while longer. Give me a couple of years and I'll have it sorted.

Meanwhile, poor Billy is tapping his foot in the dark recesses of the Boldre Wood directory, awaiting the conclusion of his story with increasing frustration. Sorry Billy. But you see, it really isn't my fault.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Lost Cuddly Companions

My gorgeous daughter lost a sheep when she was small. The fact that it was a Beany Baby sheep rather than a real one made the loss no less great. I retraced our steps in a desperate bid to find him, without success. I struggled to find meaningful words of comfort for her. She missed him and she was worried for his safety, but I wasn't sure that telling her he had probably been found by someone kind who was taking care of him was really what a grief-struck two/ three year old wanted to hear. All these years on, I still occasionally find myself looking for that lost Beany Baby.

So the plight of poor Ruby who lost Mr Rabbit in London on Saturday struck a chord with me and, it would seem, several others. Ruby's mum tweeted a plea for help in locating her daughter's lost companion, and now thousands of people are looking out for Mr Rabbit. Indeed, a rabbit was found but turned out to be an impostor, but it's surely only a matter of time before the real one is found.

If only Twitter and Facebook had been around when Lamby went missing. Still, better late than never: if you happen to have found a small beany lamb in Scarborough sometime around 1994/5, probably in the general area of Falsgrave, I know a certain person who would be very pleased to hear from you. Sadly I can't find a photograph of him, but use your imaginations. He was white (ish), fleecy, and stuffed with beans, and he sort of resembled a sheep in a rather fluffy and well cuddled sort of way.

Friday 15 November 2013

An Evening With Reginald D Hunter

I am still here, honestly! I've been writing intensively for the last few weeks and, as such, haven't really had any news to add to the blog. The good side of that is that progress of third book of the Boldre Wood Trilogy is moving apace and I'm pretty pleased with how it's all coming together. The bad side is, I haven't had time to write any short stories for the QT website.

I did take some time off yesterday because we managed to get some tickets to see Reginald D Hunter at the Town Hall. I've only previously seen him on television and I've always enjoyed his humour, but some of the reviews of his 'In The Midst of Crackers' tour had been pretty scathing. Some commenters seemed utterly appalled and outraged by his material. It led me to wonder if the genial, gently intellectual funnyman I'd seen on TV morphed into an obnoxious, foul-mouthed, chauvinistic monster when on stage. I was pretty nervous taking my seat last night.

The warm-up act was Canadian comedian Peter Johansson. He was great, and he has an interesting admiration for bears - I could never do this credit, you'd have to hear it for yourself. Then Reginald D Hunter took the stage. Far from being a monster, he was thought-provoking, funny, deep, the kind of man you'd like to spend a whole evening just listening to. It was an uplifting and inspiring evening, and I'm even more of a fan than before.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Hunger Pangs

Toast. I smelled it as I walked past the industrial estate this morning. Hot, caramelised, buttery toasty toast. In one sniff I was eight years old sitting at the breakfast table with my family, facing the horror of another day at school with a dilemma about what to spread on my toast. Marmalade or treacle? It never got easier. Both had their plus points. The marmalade came in a cool jar and was studded with jewel like gems of peel. The treacle was sweet and golden. That choice was a lot to ask of an eight year old girl depressed about going to school.

Nowadays I've simplified matters. I have jam. Blackberry jelly for preference, for even more preference, homemade blackberry jelly, though Tiptree's comes a close second.

How on earth did I end up here? It's not even a toast day. It's a porridge day. Damn those factory workers on the industrial estate. They have a talent for making you feel hungry when you're not. If you chance to pass by later in the day you'll find yourself hankering after soup, or possibly steak pie, or a healthy portion of sticky curry. First thing in the morning it's toast. And the smell gets everywhere. I can still smell it now.

Hmmm, toooooaaaast!

Friday 1 November 2013

Typing Class

As a writer I can well understand why someone would feel the urge to grab a typewriter when confronted with a scene of beauty, shock or fascination. That need to capture the moment, to pin down the feelings evoked in text is something I can relate to. But I've never thought of capturing scenes on a typewriter in quite the way Keira Rathbone does. She uses them to 'draw' the scene. It's truly astonishing to watch her work in this BBC video, and the resulting images are incredible.

I have on occasion attempted to tap out the odd symbolic image in emails and letters, you know, Christmas trees, stars, hearts, soppy stuff like that, but the finished products have been fuzzy, loose, and requiring a hefty degree of imagination on the part of the observer. Keira can draw people and complex scenery with remarkable accuracy simply by adjusting the paper and overlaying the letters. It's absolutely ingenious.

I'm desperate to have a go myself, if only I could remember where I put my old typewriter.